The last time both Men's and Women's Qualifying Series (QS) were on Costa Rica sands, Ethan Ewing nabbed his first-ever QS victory that helped secure his place among the Championship Tour (CT). The Australian took down Olamana Eleogram in a stacked Final bout as Costa Rica's own Noe Mar McGonagle bowed out in the Semifinals. But, this time around, McGonagle is back and there are plenty of competitors returning to secure an Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro title of their own.
Here's just a few names to keep tabs on amid a stack field of 64 competitors in attendance at Playa Jaco October 4 - 7.
North America No. 1 and 2 Continue Chess Match
It was on the shores of Esterillos Este where Kilian Garland was crowned 2016 North America QS Regional Champ and this year the race to the top is even tighter. No one can walk away with the title just yet as No. 1 Kevin Schulz and No. 2 Lucca Mesinas return to the same venue, after Mesinas earned the No. 1 spot in Acapulco and held it through the Vans Pro before Schulz claimed it follow the WRV Outer Banks Pro.
Both have the tendency to unleash explosive performances when needed most, and the ocean cooperates, or are left waiting for a score as times runs out. Playa Jaco's fun conditions are a suitable match for Schulz's aerial antics and Mesinas' power turns when the sections show.
While a formidable field is in attendance, these two will be competitors to keep eyes on throughout the week as the event unfolds.
Costa Rica's Power Duo: Carlos Munoz and McGonagle
Two of the Costa Rica's modern surfing era QS warriors, International QS No. 55 ranked Munoz and No. 65 McGonagle are always a threat when they put the jersey on. McGonagle's Semifinal performance in 2016 on his home soil fell just shy of clinching a Final spot, but has his eyes set on a grander finish here at Jaco. The 22-year-old, Pavones native earned a third-place finish at the Ichinomiya Chiba Open QS 6,000 which set him up for a big year that he needs to capitalize on to end it.
Munoz's results have been scattered in 2018, but a recent runner-up in Spain put him right back in contention for a big finish to end the year. The 25-year-old has made a big impact and already helped pave the way for upcoming surfers out of Costa Rica at a young age as one of its most recognizable faces around the world. Now, Munoz hopes to see this event grow and continue to encourage the next generation -- while earning some points along the way.
"It feels like all the work we have been putting in for all these years is paying back with seeing these events at here -- not only for me, but for all the Costa Ricans it's a great opportunity," Munoz said. "We call it the ‘window' so they can experience the feeling, the adrenaline and why not the start of their dreams as an athlete."
The duo are joined by another explosive Tico, Tomas King, alongside that next generation including Malakai Martinez, Anthony Fillingim, Aldo Chirinos, Sam Reidy, and one of Costa Rica's veterans Jairo Perez.
Contenders and a Freshly Crowned Champ
Also coming in to do their damage and rounding out an impeccable talent pool, North America No. 3 Josh Burke joins the likes of 2018 North America Pro Junior Regional Champ Tyler Gunter, former Pro Junior Champ Nolan Rapoza, two of San Clemente's standouts Jeremy Carter and Elijah Fox, and East Coast's newest threats Chauncey Robinson.
Burke's already laid claim to one event win this season, as well as Gunter's recent RVCA Pro Junior win, but both look to make a momentum building run here with three events left on the regional schedule -- with Gunter sitting at No. 115 on the international rankings. The field goes even deeper with a number more of competitors ready and willing to take out their first-ever QS event.
But, who will rise to the occasion beginning Thursday, October 4 - 7? Tune in Live and find out.